Podcasts on learning and teaching, career development, and mental health in academia

Over the summer, I’ve really gotten into podcasts, mainly to get new perspectives and ideas on university teaching, and also on life in academia. Here are several that I listen to regularly when I’m going for walks and that I can fully recommend! And by “fully recommend” I mean that I listen to all new episodes that they put out, and browse the archives when I am looking for inspiration… So here is who you should be listening to, too!*

Podcasts on university teaching

Lecture breakers

Barbi Honeycutt’s “Lecture Breakers” is — quite literally — on things that break up a lecture and engage students in active learning, which she talks about from her own experience and with many different guests. This podcast I would highly recommend to people who want to get tons of new, actionable ideas to change things up in their teaching practice, for example great ideas for reflection prompts (My take on this here: “take on a role and write a summary from that perspective“), or creative ways to end the semester, or sooo many more! There are, in fact, so many cool ideas that I am not even going to attempt compiling them here. Check it out!

Teaching in higher ed

Bonni Stachowiak has insightful conversations with different guests, and listening to “teaching in higher ed” is getting kind of expensive because I keep ordering the books recommended on there (like “invisible learning” that I wrote about earlier, where the interview with the author was great and the book even better).

The first episode I ever listened to (on “becoming a minority“) blew me away because it exposed me to a way of thinking about minorities and experiences connected to being in the majority vs the minority that was completely new to me, especially by seeing it through the eyes of someone who grew up in the majority, then moved, and then “became” a minority, so knows both sides of the coin.

The next episode (on “teaching effectively with zoom“) then provided me with great ideas right when I needed them, and the rest is history. I love how different the different episodes are, I usually feel like I have been exposed to completely new ways of thinking. I take so many actionable ideas and tricks away from it that I don’t want to imagine what my online teaching would look like without the input from this podcast!

Tea for teaching

This is a series of informal conversations between a core team and invited experts on different topics. Experts can be researchers in educational sciences, experienced teachers, students, or anyone else with relevant expertise.

My first episode there (and the one that made me subscribe) was on “gender and groups“, a conversation about a recent study that showed that in a setting where women are the minority when planning small group work, spreading them out over as many groups as possible is actually doing them a disservice. For the women, it is better to be the majority in the groups they are in (and then just not represented at all in others). Interestingly, being in the majority is good for the women, being in the minority doesn’t have a harmful effect on the men, so there seems to be no downside to just implement this going forward!

Another memorable episode was on “engaging students“, where students were included in a project to figure out how they actually like being engaged in class, and asked for the advice they would give their teachers. While there wasn’t a big newsflash happening for me, it was still very interesting to be reminded of how important it is to learn student names (or even just call them by their name that you read off of zoom or a name tent — it’s the intent that matters), and similar small-ish hacks.

Another recent episode dealt with the impact that faculty mindsets have on student achievement (an instructor with a growth mindset leads to more learning!), and by what mechanisms the mindset is communicated to students (e.g. by what they say, how they give feedback, what type of assessment they use, …). And there might actually be mindset interventions that we could do on instructors to change their mindsets towards a growth mindset, which would then have an effect on many many students down the line!

Other episodes focus on super courses (meaning courses that deal with fascinating, big questions throughout that students can identify with and want to actually work on), or capstone experiences (“a course with no content” at the end of a study program that “can provide students with a rich learning experience full of analysis and insights”).

And browsing past episodes now, I noticed that I really want to revisit the one on “critical race theory“. Love this podcast, always inspiring!

Dead ideas in teaching and learning

Is literally about “dead ideas”, i.e. beliefs about teaching and learning that have been proven wrong but that keep persisting. For example using a few high-stakes essays: that’s not teaching, that’s assessing.

Coping with all kinds of challenges in academia

The academic imperfectionist

The academic imperfectionist” is a coaching podcast with episodes on topics as awesome as “how to work as efficiently as you procrastinate“. This is the only podcast where I actually went back and listened to ALL available episodes, and it is the first one I catch up on if I didn’t listen to podcasts for a while. You NEED to listen to this yourself!

The agile academic

The agile academic” is a podcast for women in and around higher ed, on their experiences and the strategies that they have developed to cope and strive. I love that I knew some the inspiring women interviewed on this podcast already from different contexts (for example Bonni Stachowiak from her awesome podcast “Teaching in higher ed” (see above), and Susanna Harris from her mental health advocacy work Twitter), and that I get to see them in a new light now that I learn more about them.

The professor is in

The professor is in” is super helpful for a new perspective on “passion” as the driving force in academia that lets us put up with crappy employment situations. If we are really so passionate about our jobs, can we complain? Or, on the other side of that coin, is “passion” really something we should value this much? (Spoiler alert: nope)

Squiggly Careers

This podcast is about non-linear career paths and is SUPER interesting. The episode that got me hooked was on “how to redefine success in a squiggly career“. They are clearly speaking my language when they talk about thinking about what being successful means. The picture they use to describe impact on people beyond ourselves is that of making bigger and bigger ripples that grow wider and wider. So how can we make sure that ripples become as large as possible and reach as far as possible? We could throw a pebble into the sea, make ripples more defined, reach further, or interact with others! Might be just me, but this image (and this approach of thinking in an analogy) really spoke to me.

Another episode, on “how to build a personal board for your career“, very much reminded me of our ESWN “mentoring map”, but in a complementary way.

What they do really really well (and other podcasts do this, too, but I specifically love theirs) are one-page summaries. And I find it super useful that they have transcripts readily available, because as much as I like listening to podcasts, sometimes I just want to skim over the content, and then reading is a lot faster for me!

So this is it, my current list of go-to podcasts. Hope you’ll check some of them out! :)

*Keep in mind, though, that there are many more awesome podcasts on the same topic out there, and that these are my personal favourites. And what makes them my favourite is, for example, how long they are and if they fit well with the typical amount of time I want to spend on a podcast, i.e. the length of a walk or run (all these 10 minute episodes give me way too much opportunity to consider pausing a run, I need a substantial amount of time immerged and not thinking ;-)). I am noticing that they are all the podcasts I list here are hosted or at least co-hosted by women, for example, and it is quite likely that that is a bias I introduced because these just happen to be the podcasts I enjoy listening to, where I relate to the hosts and their stories. So please take this list only as a starting point and find the podcasts that are the best fit for your preferences!

P.S.: In the summer, my blog was mentioned in the newsletters of Teaching in Higher Ed and Lecture Breakers, both on the same day! How cool is it that those people that I pull so much inspiration and so many ideas from are aware of this blog and even think it worth sharing? Makes me feel very proud!


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